Your RV Smells Like Poop: How to Get Rid of the Odor

Cruising by camper is enjoying a home-away-from-home experience. You can travel to the great outdoors without giving up the conveniences of home, like showers and toilets. Most RVs have good water-sorting systems that manage water use for various functions.

But what happens when your RV starts to smell like an open sewage pit? What can you do to restore your motorhome’s aromatic balance?

How RV toilet systems work

Most RVs carry three water-holding tanks, CamperGuide reports. One holds fresh water for drinking and showering. The second is for gray water, or water already used for washing or showering. The third tank is for black water, AKA waste.

The gray water helps with waste management as water from that tank goes into the waste to keep it from drying out. With the sewer line shut, gray water stays in the tank to keep the waste wet and break it down. If the sewer line isn’t closed, you run the risk of fluids flowing out, leaving the waste to dry up. That can make the tank difficult to clean and keep functional.

RV toilets work like those on airplanes, CamperGuide explains. You don’t need more than a little water to flush. That also means clogs can happen easily, which is why you don’t want to flush anything aside from toilet paper made specifically for septic tanks.

Why your RV smells like poop

Several problems can cause your RV to smell terrible, the CamperGuide team reports. Some are simple fixes, and others require professional help.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as clearing a clog or cleaning the toilet area. It’s also a good idea to ensure the gray and black water tanks are clean and flushed to prevent waste backup in the tanks. The smell can be a result of valves left open and waste being allowed to dry out. 

It’s also a good idea to check the sink drain because it uses a one-way vent or a sewer vent pipe that extends to your RV’s roof. If it breaks or gets blocked or stuck, you’ll need to find someone to clean or replace the pipes.

How to get rid of the stench


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CamperGuide offers several suggestions to remedy the stinky problem. 

First, check your RV’s toilet and shower drain for blogs. Sometimes, you can unclog a drain using hot water, ice, or chemical solutions. However, any chemical solutions should be for specific use in RVs.

Diagnosing shower drain clogs is a little more involved. Check the gray water tank first because, if it’s full, there may not be a clog at all. You can use a plunger on the shower drain. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you can use an enzyme-based drain clearing agent. And if all else fails, check the drain with a flashlight. If you see an obstruction, try to remove it with a wire hanger.

You’ll also want to check the RV’s sink and its kitchen downpipe. Place a pan beneath the p-trap and then remove it. If it drains upon removal, there’s no clog. If no water drains, clean out the drain.

Other solutions include checking the wax ring on your RV’s toilet and replacing it if needed. CamperGuide also recommends cleaning the flapper and toilet, emptying the gray and black water tanks, and flushing and cleaning all your tanks.

Routine maintenance is a good practice to avoid a stinky mess. CamperGuide recommends using enzyme treatments in your black water tank to assist in waste decomposition. Just make sure you add to a tank that’s at least partially full.